BACH: Concertos for Two Harpsichords = Con. in c BWV 1062; Con. in C BWV 1061; Orch. Suite No. 1, arr. for 2 solo harpsichords; Con. in c BWV 1060 – Masaaki & Masato Suzuki, harpsichords/ Bach Collegium Japan – BIS

BACH: Concertos for Two Harpsichords = Con. in c BWV 1062; Con. in C BWV 1061; Orch. Suite No. 1 BWV 1066, arr. for 2 solo harpsichords; Con. in c BWV 1060 – Masaaki & Masato Suzuki, harpsichords/ Bach Collegium Japan – BIS multichannel SACD BIS-2051, 71:08 [Distr. by Naxos] (5/27/14) *****:

Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan are known worldwide for their excellent series of Bach Cantata recordings as well as all the large Bach choral works, but this is one of their instrumental-only recordings. Although the album notes fail to say so, Wikipedia informs me that, as expected, harpsichordist, organist, conductor, composer Masato is his son. The backing for the two harpsichords is only a string quintet from the Bach Collegium Japan.

BWV 1062 was probably adapted from a now-lost double violin concerto; the texture was thickened and there more melodic activity in the right hand parts than the violin version had. BWV 1061 exists in two versions: one without and one with (this one) string accompaniment. The strings provide textural colors and reinforce the rhythmic profile in ritornello sections.

Masato Suzuki did the arrangement of the Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major for two solo harpsichords. Since most of the harpsichord concertos are transcriptions of something else, this is most plausible task. He felt that the original orchestral work has an intricate polyphonic texture and its rich colors may have tempted Bach to adapt the work for his favorite instrument—the harpsichord. Musicologists have a hypothesis that Bach made his own four-hand version of the Orchestral Suite, so this might be a sort of two-keyboard version of that. BWV 1060 is thought to be a transcription of a lost concerto for violin and oboe. This first of Bach’s three two-harpsichord concertos is the most Italian-sounding, has strong contrasts and imaginative orchestration. The two instruments imitate one another during the second movement, over pizzicato strings. During the third, final, and also shortest movement, the two keyboards become increasingly competitive, with the No. 1 part coming out on top.

BIS’s multichannel recordings are terrific since they switched to 96/24 PCM instead of the less hi-res original recordings they did previously. And of course the performances are at a very high level. Both Suzukis have been guest conductors at orchestras around the world, and the elder Suzuki has received the Bach Prize from the Royal Academy of Music and the Bach Medal from the City of Leipzig.

—John Sunier

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